Downton Abbey 2: Saying Goodbye

It feels weird. I had known it was coming for weeks, yet I still wasn’t prepared for it. Seeing the final scene of Highclere Castle fading into black made it real– Downton Abbey is over.

By the way, there will be spoilers ahead, so stop here if you haven’t made it to the last episode. You won’t hurt my feelings in the least.

I loved seeing all the intricate stories woven together and how these very well-written characters learned to deal with all sorts of tragedies and triumphs, setbacks and celebrations, sorrows and joys.

I loved how the character of Tom Branson blossomed from a mere chauffeur who felt like a supporting character in the background into a fully-developed major player who always fought for the underdog and came to be one of my favorites, if not my very favorite.

Even that dastardly Thomas Barrow came to have some redeeming qualities after all. We left him with his New Year’s resolutions to become a better and nicer person in the future. I like to believe he made good on those promises.

Thankfully, no one died in the finale. Lady Edith finally got her moment of happiness and found true love. Lady Mary will be having another baby at some point and life will continue to go on at Downton Abbey, just not on NPT on Sundays at 8pm CST.

I love how the themes of family and truth remained the focus of the series. Lady Edith chose to be truthful about Marigold at the potential cost of her happiness. I love even more how her decision paid off in dividends for both her and the Crawley family.

It will be surreal seeing the actors in other roles. After six years and so many episodes, I will always associate them with their Downton Abbey characters.

Thank you, Julian Fellowes, for creating such a beautiful glimpse into a bygone world filled with such fascinating and many-faceted characters. I hope to see more of your characters at some point in the future.

 

To Kill A Mockingbird (Again)

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I’m reading To Kill a Mockingbird again in anticipation of reading Go Set a Watchman. I think TKAM is the perfect American novel, encapsulating a period of time that has passed away.

I still don’t understand how so many white people could hate black people merely for being black. I suppose it’s probably one of the best examples of the fallen nature of humanity that I can think of.

Still, I love the character of Atticus Finch. He’s not perfect, but he’s willing to stand up for what he believes in, even at the expense of his reputation and career. He’s also courteous and kind to those who hold opposing viewpoints (which is an extremely rare commodity these days).

I also love how the book is narrated from the viewpoint of 6-year old Scout. She can be naive at times and quite frank at others. In other words, she’s a very typical 6-year old. Yet she can also be very insightful, too.

I love both the book and the movie. For once, I’m thankful the movie didn’t try to incorporate every single plot device, leaving out a good bit of the book. It focused on the heart of what Harper Lee wrote about and got that part spot-on perfect.

I can’t imagine there ever being a remake of TKAM. Who’d play Atticus Finch? No one, and I mean no one, could ever top the pitch-perfect performance of Gregory Peck.

I don’t expect GSAW to be equally as brilliant. I’m just thankful that we get a second book from Harper Lee, 55 years after the first. I get that it was written before TKAM and how the characters are all much older. It makes my head hurt, but I get it.

We need more people like Atticus Finch who love their families and take unpopular stands for what they believe in. We need those who will fight for those who have no voice. We need those who will love unconditionally without compromise.

Now back to the book.

Lessons from The Walking Dead

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I watch a show called The Walking Dead. It’s not for the squeamish. Yes, there are zombies (referred to as ‘walkers). Yes, there is plenty o’ blood and guts a-flying’ everywhere. Yes, you get attached to characters only to see them killed off.

But I think there are a few life lessons from this show that I’d like to pass on:

1) If these zombies ever took to lifting weights, would they then be “power walkers?”

2) Family matters, even if that family isn’t flesh and blood. It’s better to be with imperfect people who care about you and have your back than to be alone.

3) No matter what face you may present to the public, the truth of who you really are will always come out. It’s no good to fight evil and become worse than the evil you’re fighting.

4) No matter how far you’ve sunk or what you’ve done, there’s always the hope of becoming something better. There’s nothing so bad in people that can’t be redeemed. I happen to believe that God does the redeeming and I am the one being redeemed.

5) If you ever do run into a zombie, make sure you kill the brain. And be sure not to wear anything you don’t mind getting ruined by blood and guts.

I think that covers it for now. I just finished up season 3, which puts me roughly one season behind (so no spoiler alerts, please).

What I’m Watching These Days

As a public service to you all (and as a result of having nothing better to write about), I’m letting you in on what I’ve been watching these days. Note: I very rarely watch current television and tend to stay away from all reality TV like the plague.

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I’ve just started watching the AMC original drama Breaking Bad, which ended its 5-season run last year. So far, it’s intriguing and has kept me guessing about how the different plot twists will turn out. I’m definitely not about to start a meth lab, but the story and the characters are compelling and believable, if not always quite likeable.

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I also revisted a classic adaptation of the Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice. It almost made me wish for a time machine, so I could travel back to 1800’s England and breathe in the fresher air and take a break from the current overhyped and oversaturated culture that’s obsesses with all things media and electronic. There’s a reason why this is the standard version of Pride and Prejudice, even if it is a bit long at nearly 5 1/2 hours.

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I also saw an old Cary Grant movie. This one won’t go down in history as one of my favorites of his, but it was entertaining, insightful, and amusing. It’s hard not to watch this movie without thinking of the Red Scare in Hollywood, Joseph McCarthy and all those blacklists of actor and directors who supposedly had Communist ties. The movie sometimes feels a bit dates, but you can never go far wrong with either Cary Grant or Jeanne Crain. And it ends happily enough.

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I’m also making my way through all the episodes of Arrested Development, which is probably my favorite sitcom of all time. Granted, it’s not for everyone, but it appeals to my offbeat nature and decidedly weird sense of humor. I recommend it if you’re looking for something funny AND smart AND sophisticated.

That’s my report for April. Check back for my report in May (depending if I hit another creative dry-spell). And as always, I look forward to hearing from you on what you’re currently watching, whether new or old.

 

Life Lessons from A Great Movie

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I finally watched a movie that I had known about for a long time and had always meant to see but never gotten around to. I even bought the movie from the $5 bin at Wal-Mart.

Tonight, I finally got around to it. The movie was What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

The movie is filled with memorable, eccentric characters. The story is anything but formulaic. There are no high-speed car chases or topless women or pyrotechnics or CGI spectacles. Just odd and endearing people living their lives the best way they know how.

One was mentally handicapped. One was morbidly obese. One was just unsure of himself and what he wanted to do with his life. But they loved each other.

I’m sure you have a few of these people in your life. People you wish were different. People who have flaws and bad habits and have done and said some really dumb things. People who can’t help the way they are. Maybe you’re one of them. Maybe you sometimes feel like you wish you could be anywhere else in the world except with these people.

You can still choose to love them. You can see them as they are, warts and all, and love them anyway. Remember that God saw you at your very worst and chose to keep loving you.

Love isn’t blind. Not in the least. Love sees the flaws and imperfections but chooses to seek and find the best in others and help draw it out in them. The way God has loved us all along.

I guess you can tell that I liked the movie, huh?

Philip Seymour Hoffman and the Struggle for Authenticity

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I was deeply saddened when I read of the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of the best character actors around. I like many of you was shocked to find out that drugs, and more specifically heroin, were the culprit for his demise.

I thought, “Why in the world would a guy as successful and talented as that need to medicate with drugs? What could possibly be so bad about his life?”

Then I read a blog or two about him that opened my eyes. I’ll do my best to simplify what I read there without plagiarizing anything or anyone.

Sometimes, character actors can lose themselves in their roles. They almost literally become the characters they’re portraying. Which is all well and good until it comes time to be yourself again.

I wonder if Philip had forgotten how to live in his own skin as himself? Or maybe he didn’t like who he was and preferred to live as someone else?

I know like so many addicts, he probably at some point chose the drug, but after a while it stopped being a choice. Unless the drug was the one who chose him.

I’m sure he hated the drug that he craved at the same time. Maybe he felt he was too far gone to save, too deep in his addiction to find a way out. Maybe he didn’t feel like he could let anyone into his battle with drugs and felt like he had to fight alone.

I’m speculating a lot here.

But I do know this. Jesus came to set the captives free.

He came for the addict. He came for the self-abuser. He came for those who don’t like what they see in the mirror and who don’t like themselves very much.

I’m not going to speculate as to whether Mr. Hoffman knew Jesus or not. Many believers get just as caught up in addictions and have just as many character flaws as anyone else.

I will say that God is close to the broken-hearted and those who are crushed in spirit. He’s near to those who cry out of desperation and deep need.

If you’re trapped in addiction, get help. Don’t fight your demons alone. And know that God is the champion of the downtrodden and distraught, the losers and underdogs, those who just can’t get their messes cleaned up or their lives figured out.

Last of all, remember that it’s only by the grace of God that it’s not you or me lying dead in a bathroom with a heroin-filled needle stuck in our arms. Only the grace of God keeps any of us alive and wakes us up in the morning.

Yeah, I still love the grace of God.

I Once Was Lost, But Now I’m Found

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I just finished watching the last episode of Lost.

I know. I’m about four years behind the rest of you who saw the series finale when it aired way back in 2010. But what can I say? I like to wait until TV shows are over so I can watch them in their entirety at my leisure. Or I can cram a whole season into a weekend. It all depemds on my mood.

I had heard that the ending of Lost was unsatisfying for many and left a lot of unanswered questions. I didn’t find that to be true for me. I loved the ending. And don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it.

Well, I changed my mind. So sue me.

Don’t read any further if you don’t want to know how the show ends. Go make some popcorn or go take a restroom break.

I love the way they were all reunited at the end. I especially love how it took place in a beautiful church building. I don’t care if they were all dead and ghosts or whatever. It gave me a good picture of what heaven will be like. Especially with how they brought back all the characters they had killed off in previous episodes.

Ok. You out there who didn’t want to know about the series finale can start reading again. No more spoiler alerts. Or spoilers.

I love a good story told well, whether the medium is a book or a movie or TV series. I love the satisfaction of having my expectations thwarted only to find the outcome was better than my predictions. God is like that.

Now I have to find the next TV series to get hooked on. I’m currently taking ideas and suggestions. Or I could just read a good book.